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War of the Worlds - It reflects a lot of our post 9-11 fears

Feature by: Jack Foley

STEVEN Spielberg's War of the Worlds is a film that reflects the times in which we live.

The source may be HG Wells' famous novel (first published in 1898) but its subject has taken on new relevance in light of recent world events.

"It reflects a lot of our post 9-11 fears," states Spielberg. "It reflects another impulse that we really are human beings and we do come together, to help each other survive, especially when we have a common enemy."

The film is set on America's East coast and finds Tom Cruise as a father attempting to save his children from alien invasion.

It contains many of the hallmarks of Spielberg's style (exciting set pieces, claustrophobic tension), but is told in a very personal style (concentrating on the lives of just one family).

Yet it was this approach that drew Cruise to the project, having previously worked with Spielberg on Minority Report.

"Steven does that with his movies and it brings you right into those characters and their stories and you really care what they are going through," he explained, while promoting the film.

Adds Spielberg: "It’s a very personal story, and these cataclysmic events are crashing down, in front of and behind, this kind of family story."

Early critics of the film have questioned why stars of the calibre of Cruise and Spielberg have chosen to remake a movie, especially since Independence Day, in 1996, had charted similar territory.

Yet both maintain that Wells' seminal science fiction work has plenty of relevance for modern viewers and remains as scary as when it first appeared.

Explains Spielberg: "I think this film, like Close Encounters and Private Ryan, is very hyper-real, and I think that’s where, if we play our cards right, it’s going to have it’s most profound effect, in affecting an audience, and truly perhaps, unsettling an audience, in that it is being played for the hyper-reality.

"Then into this reality comes something that is beyond the imagination. It is very scary to look at and certainly almost impossible to imagine, so we imagine it for you."

Cruise, too, believes that Wells' work remains extremely relevant, if not prophetic:

"When Orson Welles did his radio broadcast in 1938, it was to the backdrop of the Nazis invading Poland, the threat of war.

"Then in the 1950s it was the Cold War. Great science fiction has tremendous characters and is still relevant. It’s dealing with universal themes such as what would happen? What is man’s enemy?

"Right now, it’s man on man, forever it’s been man fighting man.
Man killing man for territory, for beliefs, not believing. Man trying to dominate man. But man really doesn’t recognise the common enemy, you know?

"Whether it’s drug addiction, illiteracy, criminality, immorality. Those things that are rotting our societies at the core. That’s what we all have in common. And that’s what H.G Wells did with his book.

"He looked at what happens when man recognises a common enemy."

So what is it that Cruise hopes War of the Worlds will bring to modern audiences?

"It would be nice if they walked out and wanted to hug their children or maybe they want to take time with their family a little more.

"But there are many different layers to the film and I hate to tell people what I want them to feel. I don’t want someone to tell me what I should feel. I like to experience it for myself.

"When I was making this film I really thought about what are the common enemies of mankind instead of man on man.

"So somewhere there is that thought of us wanting to unite together, to battle those common enemies. And, of course, we want to scare the audience, give them a great ride and wow them with this."

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